Cougars player-coach Paul March is looking for his side to rediscover a “winning mentality” heading into their final pre-season test at Championship rivals Batley on Sunday (2pm).
March’s team have endured a mixed pre-season, with a thumping win over Rochdale followed by defeats to Barrow and Dewsbury.
With the Championship opener at home to Whitehaven on February 16 coming into sharp focus, March is demanding an improved display on the infamous slope at the Bulldogs’ Mount Pleasant home this weekend.
“I’ve not made my mind up what my strongest 17 is yet, so it’s up to the players to put their hands up and make a case for their inclusion,” he said.
“Everyone is playing for their place and this is obviously our last game before the new season, so I’m looking for a big performance.
“Over the years Batley has become a nice playing surface, despite the hill, so we will be tested and that’s why we booked it in at this time of pre-season.
“We wanted the hardest friendly at the end. I know Batley have lost a lot of players but I can see them being strong again this season as John Kear has put some excellent structures in place.
“They’ve been in the Championship for a long time and are always there or thereabouts, so it will be a good test for us.
“Hopefully we can get back to that winning mentality and be consistent.”
Danny Jones is set to feature after his recent honeymoon and Ash Lindsay could be back for the start of the season. But March will be without a number of players this weekend.
“Sean Hesketh is having his baby christened and Paul Handforth won’t be available either because of that,” said the Cougars chief.
“James Feather took an early-guilty plea for the incident up at Barrow and serves a one-match suspension, while Andy Shickell has work commitments.
“Ash Lindsay’s shoulder injury is probably not as bad as originally thought, so there is a possibility he could be available for the Whitehaven game.”
March also paid tribute to assistant coach Glenn Barraclough following his departure, saying: “I’d like to thank Glenn for all his service to the club.
“He just feels he is ready for a change but he was someone I’ve enjoyed working with and have learned plenty from.”
There are no plans to appoint a replacement and March will be assisted by strength and conditioning coaches Adam Mitchell and Paul Royston.